Did He Really Think I Was That Stupid?

After Hurricane Wilma opened the roof to our office, we had to gut and rebuild the place. But before we could begin reconstruction, the building needed to be dried out so that mold wouldn’t appear and destroy the new work.

I called Stanley Steemer for a quote on bringing in a few commercial dryers to do the job. The representative, a pleasant fellow in his forties, warned me: “This is a big job.” Still, I wasn’t prepared when the estimate came in: $80,000.

What! Our insurance carrier, Citizens, offered us $180,000 to do the whole job, from demolition to painting. Even assuming I could get them to come up with the maximum – about $280,000 – there was no way I’d have even half of Stanley Steemer’s estimate to take care of the drying.

We completed the demolition and then I opened the windows and let the building air out naturally. There was still some moisture hidden in the concrete, so I asked Thom, the general contractor I’d hired to supervise the reconstruction, to see what he could do about the rest of the drying.

He spoke to a mold specialist who said he could bring in a few rental machines and have the whole thing “bone dry” in two weeks.

The cost? Six hundred dollars.

I have paid for enough construction in my time to know better, but I was still shocked by the difference between Stanley Steemer’s $80,000 and this guy’s $600 estimate. The lessons:

When you are in trouble, you attract two types of people: angels and predators. Thom is an angel.

Unless you have experience working with someone you trust, don’t contract work on a time-and-labor basis. Get a quote for the whole job and stick to it.

If the job is big, don’t take a time-and-labor bid – even if you know and trust the contractor.

Always … always … get more than one quote.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]